26 April 2008

One denial closer

Yesterday we went to the bank. Really, my husband did since he is the only income in the house, so the bank doesn't care about me, which is a good thing, given my crappy credit (what divorced person doesn't have crappy credit?). I took the kids to the park to await his call saying the appointment was done. I was so nervous I was almost ill. I was so afraid the bank would laugh at us and ask how delusional we thought we were for wanting a mortgage. About half an hour passed then he called. "Come pick me up," he said. He didn't say anything about how it went. I called the kids and for once they didn't whine about wanting to stay and play longer, thank goodness. I picked him up and he said, "Good news and bad news. Good news..." He paused and I said, "She didn't laugh in your face?" He chuckled and said, "That, too." Apparently the bank doesn't finance farms. She directed us to the USDA Rural Development program, and I ended up talking to some guy who asked how much experience we had and if we had a business plan? I didn't know you needed a business plan to live and raise a couple of chickens and goats. To me, that is akin to asking a pregnant woman if she has a degree in early childhood education. A little while later I realized that she probably thought we are going to run a commercial farm rather than a home with a few animals. I called back to explain, but it was near the end of the day, so I had to settle for leaving her a voice mail. The good news, though is that otherwise, the bank was happy to give us the loan. She sent it on up to her supervisor to see if there was something else they could do for us. When hubby told me that, I started to cry. I truly thought that my dreams of having a home of our own would only be that - just dreams. So now I wait until Monday when businesses open again to see if it was a misunderstanding or if banks now decide what kinds of pets homeowners can have.

21 April 2008

Almost surreal

It all started 2 weeks ago yesterday. I was at the farm where I buy my milk and I nonchalantly asked the farmer's wife if she happened to know of any land available that we might be able to farm on. She answered that she did in fact read of some land that was up for sale as conservation land in a nearby town. She couldn't remember any other details and didn't know where her paper was that she had found it in. So armed with that minimal amount of knowledge, I called the town office and asked if they knew what property it might be and whom I should speak with. They directed me to the head of the conservation committee, who gave me the name and number of the committee member who was handling it. By Wednesday I had the info packet. Over the weekend the lady answered my questions on the property and I started calling banks to find a mortgage. Last Friday we went to walk through the land, which is beautiful fields and forest. There are multiple building lot locations available to choose from when deciding where to put the house. Today I got an appointment for this Friday to apply for the mortgage at a local bank, and we will be signing a purchase and sale agreement, and I will be dropping off some floor plan sketches to the local lumberyard for an estimate on building costs. We will be building the house with our own two hands as we have time and money to do so. In the meantime we will be camping out all summer on our own land.

There are two lots we have to choose from. One is 31 acres, the other is 25 acres. They have 8 and 7 potential building sites, respectively. There will be a conservation easement on all but 2 acres of the land to protect the groundwater since it is part of the town's watershed. The 2 acres is where we will put the house, the barn, the chicken coop, hubby's forge, and any other buildings we might need. The larger lot is about half field, half forest; the smaller lot is about 1/3 field, 2/3 forest. We haven't decided yet which one we will take. They are almost the same price.

I have been sitting with graph paper and pencil for a few days now sketching out floor plans of various sizes and layouts. The lumberyard offered a free review with one of their engineers to make sure that the design will hold up, eg. the carrying beam is strong enough to hold the second floor. We plan to model the house after the one I described a few posts ago. We plan to have a THWASPCO like Greenpa, a root cellar and a barn. Non-structures will include a compost pile and a nice, big garden.

The only challenge we have to pass now is getting a mortgage. I feel slightly insane trying to get a mortgage in the midst of a credit crunch, but the land is only $100k. I am hoping that a local bank will be happy to give us one even if the major national lenders are in trouble. The town wants to close on June 3rd. The mortgage lady at the bank said that is not a problem.

Honestly, I feel scared and exhilarated. We have been wanting this for 10 years now, and finally, it feels like it is just falling in our laps. The land is exactly what we want. Yes, it would be nice for there to be a pond on site, but there is a lake just a half mile down the road with a public beach that is really nice. We are exactly the kind of people the conservation committee wants on the land. It is in one of the two towns we wanted to be in. So now it just comes down to money. And that is what scares me. I am afraid we will be denied when we have no down payment. We aren't allowed to save up for a down payment, though. As soon as we have cash assets of $2000 or more, we are ineligible for food stamps or public housing, which makes saving up a down payment a bit difficult. I am keeping positive by reminding myself that we *do* deserve this. We have been pretty good about our budget for a year and a half. We have been on time with our rent payments for the last couple of years. That should count for something.

14 April 2008

Buy Nothing Month sins

I thought that the Buy Nothing Month Challenge from Crunchy Chicken would be a breeze. I don't usually feel a "need" to have something. It's funny how much you suddenly "need" as soon as you swear it all off. I have gone to Sunday confessional twice at Crunchy's blog. I thought I would update you as to how I am doing on here as well.

Two days into the challenge, I got a call form the local kitchen store that the pot I have been waiting forever for finally came in. It was a 2-qt stainless steel saucepan. I had a 1-qt and a 3-qt cast iron saucepans, and an 8-qt stainless steel stockpot, but I needed something I could heat tomato sauce in without wasting the energy needed to do it in such a huge pot.

It is also very hard to do this challenge in a month when I have two children's birthdays. When we got them each their own bed, we discovered we owned 3 sets of twin size sheets and had 4 beds. So I took Rowan out for her birthday and got her a set of sheets so each bed could be used. The rest of the sheets are about 10 years old and getting pretty threadbare and elastic-worn. I promised the other kids they could each pick out new sheets for their birthdays, too. We go out today to get Lauren's.

All the rest of my sinful indulgences have been edibles. Ice cream, chocolate, etc. I think I have bought junk food 5 or 6 times this month.

01 April 2008

Buy Nothing Month

I have entered Crunchy Chicken's Buy Nothing Challenge for this month. You can read the rules at the link above this post. I confess that I bought a WoW game card yesterday since I was planning on buying one in a week or two. Don't grief me about WoW. It helps me keep my sanity. As the world goes to hell in a handbasket around me, I can pretend to some sort of normalcy when I play. It is my drug of choice right now. When the grid crashes I will have to find a new drug, I know. And I know that the environmental impact of playing WoW is not small, but that and driving 90 miles each direction for my daughter on the weekends are my hugest impacts by far. So check out the challenge and join us.

Hodge Podge

I have several things to talk about today, pretty much all unrelated.

First, the property manager here has given me permission to start a community garden in the small field (huge useless lawn) on site. She even said it used to be a community garden, but they had problems with crime and eventually dropped it. When I asked about reviving it, she said I could be in charge of it. I made up a flyer (pending approval) pointing out the benefits of gardening and inviting everyone to participate. I even promised a potluck dinner at the end of the year with garden grown veggies. The property manager offered to have maintenance do the tilling for us, and I am just waiting on her approval for the date and such. Woo hoo!

Secondly, I cleared out a lot of space in two closets so I can start storing food. I am waiting for a call from the local homemade candy store (wouldn't that be store-made, though? local, anyway) about 5-gallon buckets. I also need to find shelving to fit in the closets. I am very proud of my food shopping thriftiness lately. I visit the food pantry (which is still very well stocked, fortunately) on Wednesdays, then I make up a menu for the next 7 days based on what we got from the pantry. I try to have to put no more than a dozen items on the shopping list. Last week, I had probably 10 things on the list. I was able to buy almost all organic and spent just under $50. I am desperately hoping that the price of organic food won't rise as much as that of conventional food since organic requires less oil inputs. We are down to eating meat about 3-4 times a week now, down from 6-7 times a week, and nearly all of it comes from the food pantry. We still have to buy meat for our cat, but even some of that can come from the pantry. After all, even with 6 mouths to feed every day, there is no way I am serving roast chicken 3 times a week. One, we get other meats as well usually; two, that much chicken causes appetite fatigue in our house; and three, ... well, I can't think of a three. We are purchasing a piglet this month for a local farmer to raise for us, and the price of uncertified organic hamburger at our local farm is $3.39/lb.

Third unrelated item -- a few days ago I took a detour while taking my daughter back to her dad's house to stop by the house in Nostalgia and we were invited in by the same man who bought the house from my folks 20 years ago. It looks so different. He has expanded the second floor to be a full storey instead of a loft, installed a bathroom, a full-fledged kitchen, two bedrooms upstairs and windows downstairs. It looked so much smaller than it did when I was my daughter's age. It was very cozy. The gentleman said that he was struggling with the payments for two reasons. He is a carpenter and work has been slow, and the taxes have gone up from $600/year in 1988 to $3400 now. Ouch. But it was very nice to see the house again. I had just driven up the seemingly shortened driveway (surely the whole property shrank over 20 years) and looked around while staying in the car, but the man came out and I explained who I was and that I just wanted to show my daughter, and he invited in me in for a look-see and a chat. Very talkative gent. I think we spent 45 minutes there chatting, so I had to make up time since my husband had specifically said not to take 5 hours for the 4+ hour trip. I made it home in 4.5 hours. Very little traffic at that time of night helped a lot. The little hill where I used to build my forts turns out to be about half the distance from the house that I thought. The 30-40 feet in my memory turned out to be merely 10-20 feet.